By BRIAN SULLIVAN
NEW ALBANY —
Looking to keep themselves firmly in the Hoosier Hills Conference championship picture, the New Albany Bulldogs bounced back from last Friday’s loss to top-rated Columbus East, toppling Madison 35-7 on Homecoming Night.
The Bulldogs wasted little time establishing their running game, marching 75 yards on just four plays on the opening drive to secure an early 7-0 advantage. Tuwon Payton carried the ball on all four snaps, ripping off runs of 16, 29 and 21 yards before punching it in from the 9-yard line.
The two teams then traded four empty possessions, with Madison mustering just 16 yards on 10 rushes, while a holding penalty and fumble would short-circuit New Albany’s next two efforts.
Madison knotted things up, capitalizing on Payton’s fumble in Cubs’ territory. After a 20-yard gain by Mitchell Sandlin, wide receiver Jordan Partee lined up behind center, completing one pass before rushing twice. The second time was good for a for a 10-yard touchdown scamper.
The hosts took the lead for good late in the first quarter, with a pair of completions from Zach Donan to Jared Jones to further serve to open up New Albany’s running lanes. The result was Payton’s second touchdown, this time on a 13-yard run with 3 seconds remaining on the clock to make it 14-7.
The Bulldogs went into halftime with a two-touchdown margin as senior Jeffontae McClain ripped off an impressive 30-yard rush. The New Albany defense stiffened in the waning moments of the half. With Madison driving, New Albany had back-to-back tackles for losses, then forced an intentional grounding against Partee that effectively ended the threat.
After a three-and-out to open the second half by the visitors, New Albany took over on their own 43 and methodically marched in for their fourth touchdown. Donan’s quarterback sneak with 8:21 to play in the third made it 28-7, and he went on to add on a 10-yard score in the fourth quarter to account for the final margin.
Any hopes for a late rally by Madison were squelched by Bulldog defensive back Antawon Swims, who had two fourth quarter interceptions in the back left corner of the end zone.
New Albany manhandled Madison with their rushing attack, out-gaining the Cubs on the ground 395-247. Payton, who came into the game leading the state in rushing at over 255 yards per game, turned in a commanding 327 yard performance on 36 carries with two touchdowns.
In all, the Bulldogs totaled 485 yards to 293 for Madison, with a 19-13 edge in first downs.
With the victory, New Albany improved to 4-2 overall to match their best start through six games since 2002, when the Bulldogs won their most recent sectional title.
At 3-1 in league play, they sit in a three-way tie for second place with Jeffersonville and Floyd Central, one game behind 10-time conference champion Columbus East.
New Albany will now prepare for next week’s rivalry showdown with the Red Devils at Buerk Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
NEW ALBANY 35, MADISON 7
New Albany 14 7 7 7—35
Madison 7 0 0 0— 7
NA — Tuwon Payton 9 yard run (Vincent Falcone kick), 11:20.
M — Jordan Partee 10 yard (Sego Hunter kick), 1:49.
NA — Payton 13 yard run (Falcone kick), :03.
NA — Jeffontae McClain 30 yard run (Falcone kick), 2:48.
NA — Zach Donan 1 yard run (Falcone kick), 8:21.
NA — Donan 10 yard run (Falcone kick), 9:07.